Back to Vietnam

From Lodi Enterprise

When people plan where they go on vacation, they usually look for a spot for fun and relaxation-not a place where they once fought a war.

Joe and Rita Ziemet

Joe and Rita Ziemet: U.S Navy veteran, Joe Ziemet, served two tours in the Vietnam War. In January, he visited the country again, with his wife Rita, to see what has changed. Photo from Lodi Enterprise.

But that’s exactly what Joe Ziemet did.

More than 47 years after he landed in the country as a 17-year-old U.S. Navy sailor, he went back to Vietnam as a tourist.

Walking through the scooter-clogged streets of Saigon, climbing down the intricate tunnels of the Viet Cong and visiting the museum where captured U.S. helicopters were displayed, Ziemet saw the history of the Vietnam War through others’ eyes.

“He who wins the war, writes the history,” Ziemet says of the experience.

But he has a story of his own to tell.

His own story

Steaming, hot tropical days and nights are what Ziemet remembers most of his first days in Vietnam back in February 1967.

He arrived in the country less than a month after the United States was embroiled in an intensified campaign to drive the Viet Cong forces from the Iron Triangle. In more than two weeks of warfare, 72 Americans were killed, victims of guerrilla tactics they weren’t used to; snipers and booby traps.

Zeimet, stationed in the Mekong Delta near Sa Dec south of Saigon, worked as a diesel mechanic repairing river patrol boats, which the U.S. and the south Vietnamese used to transverse the country’s muddy waterways.

The conflict, in Ziemet’s eyes, was a civil war, and, although U.S. soldiers were seemingly welcomed by the south Vietnamese, they always had to watch their backs.

“Obviously, you couldn’t tell what they (the Vietnamese) were thinking. There were numerous incidences where people worked on the U.S. base in the daytime and worked for the Viet Cong at night,” Ziemet remembers.

After more than a year in Vietnam, Ziemet headed home. The mood back in the U.S. had dramatically changed since he left in 1967.

“Back then people didn’t know where Vietnam was-it was just something going on half way around the world. But that changed.” he remembers.

Ziemet was stationed on the USS Sommers in Long Beach, Calif. and then the Naval Reserve Training Center in Springfield, Ill. By 1971, amid anti-war protests in the United States, Ziemet volunteered to go back to Vietnam, feeling a sense of obligation.

This time around, he served as an advisor to the South Vietnamese Navy, as they took over the ground war and water patrols from the Americans. During that time only about 133,000 U.S. servicemen remained in country, and he stepped into a backseat role.

“They (the south Vietnamese) were very capable and very competent, for the most part we didn’t have a lot to do, just helped them when they needed it and provide moral support,” Ziemet remembers.

In July 1972, he was shipped back to the United States. By March 1973, the war was officially over for the United States, while the North and South Vietnamese forces continued battling it out.

Read the full article from Lodi Enterprise.

Báo Người Việt hoan nghênh quý vị độc giả đóng góp và trao đổi ý kiến. Chúng tôi xin quý vị theo một số quy tắc sau đây:

Tôn trọng sự thật.
Tôn trọng các quan điểm bất đồng.
Dùng ngôn ngữ lễ độ, tương kính.
Không cổ võ độc tài phản dân chủ.
Không cổ động bạo lực và óc kỳ thị.
Không vi phạm đời tư, không mạ lỵ cá nhân cũng như tập thể.

Tòa soạn sẽ từ chối đăng tải các ý kiến không theo những quy tắc trên.

Xin quý vị dùng chữ Việt có đánh dấu đầy đủ. Những thư viết không dấu có thể bị từ chối vì dễ gây hiểu lầm cho người đọc. Tòa soạn có thể hiệu đính lời văn nhưng không thay đổi ý kiến của độc giả, và sẽ không đăng các bức thư chỉ lập lại ý kiến đã nhiều người viết. Việc đăng tải các bức thư không có nghĩa báo Người Việt đồng ý với tác giả.

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